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Toyota to sell onboard audio alert system for Prius

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August 24, 2010

Toyota's onboard audio alert system warns pedestrians of an oncoming vehicle

Toyota's onboard audio alert system warns pedestrians of an oncoming vehicle

Having grown up with the roar of gasoline-powered engines, most people rely not only on their eyes, but also their ears when detecting the danger of an oncoming vehicle. The quiet whirring of an electric a hybrid vehicle operating at low speeds isn’t enough to alert pedestrians of the vehicle’s approach and poses particular risks to the blind. To address this problem Toyota has announced that it will begin selling an onboard audio device that provides alerts pedestrians to the presence of quiet vehicles, such as its gasoline-electric hybrid Prius.

To meet new guidelines from Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism for hybrid and near-silent vehicles, Toyota will begin selling the device in Japan from August 30 for retrofitting on its third-generation Prius vehicles. When the Prius is operating as an electric vehicle at speeds up to approximately 25km/h (15mph) the onboard device automatically emits a synthesized sound of an electric motor.

The sound, which Toyota says is “aimed to alert but not annoy,” rises and falls in pitch relative to the vehicle’s speed to help indicate the vehicle’s proximity and movement. Maybe some bright spark will come up with a way to hook up the device to a SoundRacer to give their Prius some real volume.

Toyota also plans other versions of the device for use in gasoline-electric hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric vehicles as well as fuel-cell hybrid vehicles planned for launch.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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12 Comments

Pedestrians who blinder heedlessly into the road are a serious menace to cyclists so need to be taught to use their eyes/brains, and fast.

If electric cars are an effective way of either educating or culling said dunderheads, then bring it on.

The quieter vehicles are, the more pleasant our streets will be.

Ian

gadgetmind
25th August, 2010 @ 03:07 am PDT

As we migrate away from internal combustion engines, "problems" like this will crop up again and again. Inserting a pseudo-noise is exactly the wrong solution. Ian is right, let's cull the dunderheads and make some progress towards a quieter world.

Cliff

CliffG
25th August, 2010 @ 08:14 am PDT

Of course, they will have to advertise the specific sound this alert will make so people get used to it and know it for what it is, but it's a great idea nonetheless. What they should do is market this alert system to private airplane owners too, so that in the event they lose power and need to land on a beach, road, etc., they can let someone in either location know and not kill them.

Carol Yates Wilkerson
25th August, 2010 @ 08:44 am PDT

Ian,

I'm fully in agreement regarding the idiot pedestrians, and anyway many petrol cars are very very quiet already.

Apart from unsighted people, what's to stop pedestrians using their eyes before making a change of direction just as motorists do?

Perhaps we should go back to having guys carrying a red flag in front of a vehicle.....but even they didn't have a bell!

Ian.

Terotech
25th August, 2010 @ 09:27 am PDT

Funny, I always thought it was the vehicle driver's responsibility to see and avoid pedestrians, inasmuch as they always have the right-of-way. I have seen this bogus issue before and am quite frankly disappointed that Toyota has given it credence. Does this mean that clothespins and playing cards will be required for bicycle wheels to make the "motorcycle" sound we wanted when I was a kid? How about requiring aircraft-like strobe lights so the deaf can also know a Prius (or any other car, for that mater) is coming? This article just shows how PC and illogical a company can get.

hfuller@solaraero.org
25th August, 2010 @ 11:03 am PDT

Yeeah, just bring'em ! We'll learn how to deal with them, we're bright enough, don't worrry;-)

joke aside, this will be huge, i tell you. i mean, the EV overtaking, if this (approaching pedestrians without mking noise) is the only annoyance, man, i tell you, i wanna be hit by an ev, right now !!

sinan
25th August, 2010 @ 12:00 pm PDT

and couple this with that Honda innovation of making the front end of the vehicle software so that *WHEN* you hit a pedestrian, it won't snap their legs like twigs! Come on people! is there an epidemic of hitting pedestrians with cars in this world? Aren't there more important things we should be dedicating our accumulated brain power on fixing?

Ed
25th August, 2010 @ 02:29 pm PDT

It should have a voice recording in a deadpan way... "Hey. Car here. Could you like, not walk in front of me?"

Facebook User
25th August, 2010 @ 04:34 pm PDT

Surely technology must be close to being able to detect that there's a soft target in front of the car and honk a horn or something. I'd rather see transport getting quieter as do many others in here.

warren52nz
25th August, 2010 @ 11:32 pm PDT

While I agree that cars should be as quiet as possible, and love how quiet the Prius is when in full EV mode, there are pedestrians other than alert full grown adults that deserve a little extra protection. There are several Prius' in my neighborhood, amid dozens of children who rightfully occupy the normally quite streets with games of stickball and bike riding. I have seen the look of shock and terror when a quiet EV creeps up in the middle of their games, and even seen a child loose control and crash when a car suddenly appears out of nowhere.

Even when the drivers are safe in the knowledge they aren't going to run over anyone, it takes a few precious seconds for the shocked children to process this fact.

roguengineer
26th August, 2010 @ 01:12 pm PDT

well given the noise young hoons make with their 12inch diameter base speakers.What about making a complete spectrum of internal combustion engine noises.You could choose a 1956 Holden FJ or a late model Ferrari or the beloved sound of the old Beetle.Choose your engine noise...depending on your mood on the day you could choose any sound to suit your fancy.what about a Harley ?

David Browning
23rd September, 2010 @ 11:59 pm PDT

I wrote to SoundRacer well over a year ago in Sweden and expressed how ahead of the curve they were with engine sound effects for vehicles. Their reply was less than a stellar commitment to pursue this market. They indicated that they already were working hard to develop the existing novelty add on market, particularly with an emphasis on small car enhancements. Perhaps my suggestion of connecting their rpm sensor, linked to a choice of prerecorded vehicle engine sounds (V6, V8, V12) based upon each engine's varying RPMs digitally reproduced and connected to strategically placed external loud speakers would fit the bill. Their reply to me indicated that the closest that anyone had come to duplicate my suggestion was from a customer who owned a convertible and just turned up the volume on his car stereo to be heard outside the vehicle. Despite the return to the "Noise Pollution" factor, I concur that all pedestrians and in particular the visually challenged need this enhancement on silent running vehicles, whether they be auto or motorcycle EVs.

Mark Hedtke
19th November, 2011 @ 08:53 pm PST
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